Mummy Congress Paperback – Jun 13 2002
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Mummies fascinate us. As we peer at their withered flesh, we are glimpsing a type of immortality. Heather Pringle tells the stories of some of these "frail elders"--and the scientists who study them--in The Mummy Congress.
Pringle details the tension between the preservationists, who want to protect the ancient dead and refuse to unwrap them, and the dissectionists, who see mummies as a repository of scientific data waiting to be studied. She also introduces the reader to the preserved dead from around the world--from the bog bodies of northern Europe to the mysterious Caucasian-looking mummies from China's Tarim Basin, from Egyptians in linen shrouds to incorruptible Christian saints, and from Lenin in his Moscow mausoleum to Incan children found on Andean mountaintops.
Peppered with fascinating snippets of information--for example, for centuries artists were sold on a pigment called "mummy," a transparent brown made from ground-up mummies--The Mummy Congress makes for lively, if somewhat ghoulish reading. Highly recommended. --Sunny Delaney --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Pringle's mummy experts are livelier than a crypt full of stacked corpses. This is high praise given how successfully the author animates the dead in this delightfully macabre piece of mortuary globe-trotting. The trip begins at the World Congress on Mummy Studies, held last in arid Arica, Chile. Arica's climate makes it the ideal place to bring your mummy as eccentric scholars do, by the busload. From South America, Pringle, a frequent contributor to magazines like Discover and Islands, departs for the global ateliers of this weird profession, from the makeshift morgue of Art Aufderheide in Egypt, where plastic bags full of brittle corpses are piled by the dozens; to the Peruvian mountaintops, where an American adventurer's discovery of a beautiful Inca girl named "Juanita," an ancient and flawless sacrifice to the gods, ignites a media frenzy; to the subterranean caverns beneath Red Square, where a team of mausoleumists tended to Lenin's lifelike remains, and freelanced their skills out to fellow communists wanting to see their own dead leaders under glass. Pringle's gifts as a writer and a journalist are evident on every page. In brisk, vivid prose she delivers the secrets of the mummy trade: mummies as medicine; the self-preservation techniques of Japanese monks; and the Vatican's modern-day practitioners of the temple priest's art. Pringle's mummies and the men and women who love them make for fascinating and lively reading; this book is sure to have, as they say, a very long shelf life. Agent, Anne McDermida. (June)Forecast: A five-city author museum tour and undoubtedly many positive reviews will help the book reach its potentially wide audience, way beyond the usual gallery of science fans.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition. See all Product Description
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Top Customer Reviews
In a sense this is almost an "Encyclopedia of the Mummy" because it covers so many aspects of mummy hunting, dissecting and preserving. Most mummy hunters seem obsessed by their quest. They may be after mummies for scientific, historic, theatric or religious reasons, but hunt them they must. This raises moral issues; after all these were once human beings that we are putting on display, slicing for DNA or just carting off to some museums storage room. Can we justify it if we, say, understand some disease better after the research? Or is it just voyeurism for us all to know what the Iceman ate for his last meal?
The writer introduces us to individual mummy hunters, strong characters all, and the unusual places they work. Her writing is clear and vivid, if a trifle long. She is at her best describing the moral and psychological issues surrounding our fascination with mummies and the way they relate to our own mortality anf hopes for immmortality.
I didn't know much about mummies going into this book, except how the ancient Egyptians prepared theirs. "The Mummy Congress" soon put an end to my ignorance, and in a very amusing, captivating way. In the book, we are introduced to the mummy experts and their beloved mummies in detail. Pringle pulls no punches in her descriptions of the people or the ethcial dilemmas they sometimes face. She also gives the reader a multitude of lessons in mummies. Did you know that some of the paintings you may see in museums were painted with a pigment called Mummy -- made out of ground mummies? Did you know that there are many mummies in South America which tell us how the culture faced grief? Did you know that caucasians once lived in China? Read this book, and you'll learn many such facts. The best thing is that Pringle doesn't write for the expert; she's writing for those of us with an interest, but no experience. And she manages to do it in an entertaining way. I couldn't find any dull parts in this book. So, read it and be amazed at the ancient worlds and people you'll get to know. I can't recommend this book highly enough!
Yet, for all the excellent writing and compelling subject matter, Pringle's work lacks falls just short of the last yard: a unifying spiritual theme, a thread of allegory to tie it all together and leave a more permanent impression. One gets the sense that she is curious about mummies and their students, but not consumed by them, not possessed by them. She does not love them, and so cannot make them and her work a transcendent experience, as it so rightly should be. And she comes so close.
Still, this book is a very welcome addition to my scientific non-fiction shelf, and one I will return to again and again.
Another emerging technology not mentioned is in preserving bone marrow stem cells or other somatic cells in the frozen state for eventual cloning by nuclear transfer. Cells from at least one former president rest in a freezer somewhere (but without the intention of eventual cloning).
Be that as it may, Pringle's book is a wellspring of information on the philosophy and practice of preserving the human body.
Most recent customer reviews
A great book about a weird topic. HP makes some very telling insights about mummies as dead people yet also as natural objects. Read morePublished on May 9 2002 by Erik Strommen
This was a great book. I purchased it to help with a paper I'm writing for a class on mummies at the New School in NY. Read morePublished on April 4 2002 by Stern Fan
The Mummy Congress is as dramatic as it sounds. The cover photo is arresting & you have got to wonder what these "leading mummy experts" are like? Read morePublished on Jan. 3 2002 by Rebecca Brown
The Mummy is a history of the practice of mummification. We tend to think of this as a purely Egyptian phenomenon, but that isn't the case at all. Read morePublished on Nov. 17 2001 by Alan Robson
Heather Pringle's "The Mummy Congress" is one of the best science books for the general reader in a long time. Read morePublished on Nov. 10 2001 by Ein Kunde
Author Heather Pringle brings mummies and their mummyologists into the homes AND hearts of the reader with a style that is easy to welcome in! Read morePublished on Oct. 10 2001 by Carla J. Schultz
My husband picked up this book and then decided not to read it and instead moved onto another, but I decided to give it a try. Boy, am I glad I did. Read morePublished on Sept. 10 2001
This book is an interesting, chatty, survey of mummies worldwide for people who don't already know a good deal about it. Read morePublished on Aug. 22 2001 by M. S. Butch